Budget deal is close, but Ohio lawmakers may have to vote on an extension Friday
Though there were hundreds of differences to work out between the House and Senate versions of the two-year state budget, Ohio lawmakers are close to a deal. However, it seems likely the budget won't be signed into law by the end of the fiscal year Friday at midnight.
Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) suggests there have been some compromises, such as on education spending. He said the budget will go with the House's plan to fund the Fair School Funding Plan, which was passed in 2021 and created a new formula to determine the base cost to educate students. The Senate budget cut that by $541 million.
The budget will also include the Senate's plan for taxpayer-paid private school vouchers for any family that wants one, with means testing for people making over 450% of the federal poverty level, or around $135,000 a year for a family of four. That's a significant change from Gov. Mike DeWine's initial budget, which expanded EdChoice vouchers from 250% of the federal poverty level to 400%.
"I'm optimistic that our EdChoice plan will remain in the budget," Huffman said. "I think what's going to happen is the House’s version on K-12 spending will be in budget."
He said the budget won't include the higher education overhaul,Senate Bill 83, which bans most diversity training and faculty strikes, and requires expressions of "intellectual diversity" on a set of specific topics including electoral politics, marriage or abortion.
But that doesn't mean that controversial bill won't go forward.
"One of the statements to us was there's at least 60 votes for Senate Bill 83 in the House, and they'll pass it as an independent bill," Huffman said.
The budget will also include Senate Bill 1, which renames the Department of Education as the Department of Education and Workforce. It also strips power from elected state school board members and gives it to the governor. That's similar to House Bill 12.
Conference committee chair Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) said there are still some sticking points.
"We will probably have to do an extension of some sort for a period of time, butwe're expecting to take this vote on Friday. That's our hope, and if it goes longer, it goes longer," Edwards said. "We're not going to sacrifice on priorities, but we're expecting — we're hoping — as of right now, [to] take this vote on Friday."
Gov. Mike DeWine is staying positive, but won’t say whether he expects the budget to pass both chambers and get to his desk in days or in weeks.
“I'm not going to put any money on the days. We don't have an office pool in the governor's office, but all I can tell you is I think it's on track," DeWine said.
DeWine put out a statement Tuesday urging both sides to “keep working.” He said that was intended to keep the pressure on lawmakers.
"There has to be a deadline," DeWine said. "Whether or not I sign a budget before July 1 — I don't know about that — but I think they're on track. They're going to get a budget. I think it's going to be a good budget. It's going to be a budget that I'll be able to sign.”
DeWine issued 14 vetoes in the current budget and 25 vetoes in 2019. He didn’t mention anything specific he might veto this time, but says he wants money for the Science of Reading program, mental health treatment and school security officers. He also wants the child tax deduction boosted by $2,500, which is not in either the House or Senate budgets.